Searching for a Debate on Climate Policy?

As Nathan just noted, the presidential debates are in the books with nary a mention of climate change, or any other environmental issue for that matter.  Part of the explanation is that the mainstream political press generally detests having to cover environmental issues, which require a pretty deep engagement with science as well as policy details that are complicated and confusing even for those of us whose job it is to follow these things.

I think the larger reason probably has to do with a tactical decision made by both campaigns to steer clear of the environment on the grounds that it doesn’t break in any predictable way among undecided voters in the handful of remaining swing states.

But in actuality, the loss is not all that great.  While I tend to think having presidential debates is preferable to the alternative, historically their impact has been felt more in terms of gaffes, zingers, and comparative stage presence and less in terms of enlightening policy arguments.

Fortunately, there was a great and detailed discussion last week of the two campaigns’ different energy policy visions. It came courtesy of the MIT Energy Initiative’s Presidential Energy Debate, featuring surrogates Joe Aldy for the Obama campaign and Oren Cass for the Romney campaign.  [Full disclosure, Aldy is a Non-resident Fellow at RFF.] Both did an extraordinarily good job of representing the two side’s positions in a substantive way over the course of a debate that covered energy independence, climate change, technology policy, LNG exports, ANWR, the mercury rule and other topics.  Video here. Transcript here.

About Peter Nelson

Pete Nelson is Resources for the Future's Communications Director and co-managing editor of Common Resources. Pete has over twenty years' experience writing about and researching environmental and natural resource policy issues. He was a founder of the environmental news service Greenwire and served as its first editor-in-chief. More recently, he served as Communications Director for the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster and Offshore Drilling created by President Obama after the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Views expressed above are those of the author. Resources for the Future does not take institutional positions on legislative or policy questions. All information contained on Common Resources is intended for informational and educational purposes and may only be used for these purposes. Please see RFF's Terms of Use for further information.

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  1. […] proposed by President Obama and Governor Romney, which were highlighted earlier this month in a debate at MIT. RFF Nonresident Fellow Joe Aldy represented the Obama administration’s position and Oren […]

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